Paul Richmond learned early in life what it means to be "different." "I was bullied for being effeminate, for being artistic, for not being interested in sports," he said.
He knows the toll it can take on a child. "The fact that I was tall didn't mean that I was tough. I was petrified to go to school."
He found an outlet in art.
Three years ago, with the art teacher who inspired him, he founded the “You Will Rise Project,” to provide that same outlet for other young people.
"Because bullies make you feel silenced. If they could get those feelings out, maybe more kids would be able to come through this."
Young people like Jayson Elizondo.
"Even the strongest of people who say, ‘I don't care what they say about me, I'm going to be myself,’ it still gets to you. So I had that mentality of 'oh I don't care, I'll be me'."
And he says he was bullied mercilessly, to the point that he tried to take his own life.
"Who's going to care when I'm gone?” Elizondo remembers thinking. “You know, my mom might, my friends might. but they'll get over it. After them, though, who? I'm not making enough impact in this world to matter if I'm gone or not."
Childhood doodles grew into adult expressions of turmoil and torment, and provided the life raft that got him through.
"It's such a better outlet than cutting, than hurting yourself, than hating yourself," he said.
Elizondo is among nine high school students to participate in a project called "Art Against Bullying".
They were mentored by students from the Columbus College of Art and Design.
"Once they start making art, it kind of becomes a language and a communication tool,” said CCAD student and mentor Maddie Miller. “So it was easier as an artist to another artist to work with them. They opened up, and all this amazing work came out of it."
If a picture paints a thousand words, Richmond hopes this exhibit paints a portrait of hope.
"Labels people assign to you don't have to become a part of who you are. You get to define yourself, and that you can take whatever is thrown at you and turn it into something positive."
"A lot of my pieces show the darkness of what I went through,” said Elizondo. “But also, life is beautiful. There is hope. Be creative. Be happy. It's gonna be okay."
The “Art Against Bullying Exhibit” opens to the public tomorrow night at CCAD.
For more details, visit: http://youwillriseproject.blogspot.com/p/artagainstbullying.html